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September 14, 2006



Nice list, but I'd replace Rachel Wallace with Early Autumn

This is not in order because that would take me hours

1) Early Autumn by Robert B. Parker

2) Everybody Dies by Lawrence Block

3) The Killing Kind by John Connolly

4) L.A. Requiem by Robert Crais

5) The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly(Though The Black Echo is brilliant)

6) A Cool Breeze on the Underground by Don Winslow

7) Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler

8) The Chill by Ross McDonald

9) Soul Circus by George Pelecanos

10) Gone, baby, Gone by Dennis Lehane

Victor Gischler


But it's hard to get 100% behind a list without James Crumley's THE LAST GOOD KISS.

Just my 2 cents.



I was trying to come up with suggestions for female authors to help balance your list a bit, though I do agree with the books and authors already listed. How about something by Ruth Rendell?


Make room for the "Last Good Kiss". James Sallis belongs there as well.


Interesting list. Good luck getting it narrowed to ten. I would add one of the Sid novels from Dick Francis and add James Lee Burke as well.

Charles Edward

I'm still fairly new to crime fiction, and can only speak from what I've read. Here are my picks, not in any order.

1. L.A. Requiem Robert Crais
2. Red Harvest Dashiell Hammett
3. I, The Jury Mickey Spillane
4. Eight Million Ways to Die Lawrence Block
5. Farewell My Lovely Raymond Chandler
6. The Ivory Grin Ross Macdonald
7. The Long Blue Goodbye John D. McDonald
8. Black Cherry Blues James Lee Burke
9. The Far Side of the Dollar Ross Macdonald
10. Death in a Bowl Raoul Whitefield

David J. Montgomery

Oh yeah, I think Crumley's book should be on there, too. That's one I forgot.

Pelecanos is an interesting thought. I had forgotten about him. I guess I don't think of George writing detective novels, although the Derek Strange books would qualify. He's certainly a great writer.

I've actually never read James Lee Burke. I know, I know, it's sacrilege. Whenever people have described his books to me, though, they never sound like my kind of thing.

I've never read Ruth Rendell either. Or Ian Rankin for that matter. I've never really gotten into most of the European writers.

Obviously there are some holes in my reading! :)

David J. Montgomery

I definitely enjoy James Sallis' work, but I don't think any of the Lew Griffin books I read would quite make the list. I think Drive is his best book, but of course it wouldn't qualify.

Steven Axelrod

You shouldn't leave out P.D. James or Ian Rankin; and the first of the John Dunning 'Bookman' books, "Booked to Die" is wonderful, though the series goes sharply downhill after the sequel. Marquand's Mister Moto books are excellent, especially the later ones.

David J. Montgomery

I really liked Dunning's Booked to Die, too. I don't know if it's quite up to the Top 10, but it's damn close.

Cameron Hughes


I've never cared for Burke. He's a beautiful writer, but strangely flat and inhuman with character. I think John Connolly does the poetic writing thing better while still remembering to make his characters real.


My thoughts on Ian Rankin:

He desperately wants to be Michael Connelly, but his view on crime is really simplistic and black and white. Don't bother.

Lana Lang

I think Connelly's best book was The Concrete Blonde. The Black Echo gets a lot of praise, which it deserved, but I don't think it's the best Bosch novel by a long shot.

Steven Axelrod

The extraordinary thing about Connelly isn't the excellence of any particular book, though most of them are excellent; it's the way he keeps on doing it, year after year, sometimes two books a year. He never gets stale and the quality never goes down. The Closers is every bit as good as The Concrete Blonde. It's amazing, baffling, awe-inspiring to those of us who labor for years to come up with one relatively puny and deriviative plot. His genius lies in the sheer volume of his work. I'd say he was Dickensian, but he's far more enjoyable to read than Dickens.


Even Connelly's lesser more mainstram work like THE POET and BLOOD WORK are very good, if not his usual brilliant.

I still think he should have ended the Bosch series at LOST LIGHT.


Are these all American?

The Scandinavians do a lot of good crime fiction: Henning Mankell, Arnaldur Indriðason, Karin Alvtegen to name just a few. But my favourite is definitely one of the classics -- 'The Laughing Policeman' by Maj Sjöwall and Peter Wahlöö.

Interesting blog by the way. Got here via Petrona but have bookmarked you, so will be back!


Oooh, fun! I came up with seven: in no particular order:

The Monkey’s Raincoat, Robert Crais. Many people prefer L.A. Requiem, but I like this one better. It’s like no other book.

Murder Must Advertise, Dorothy L. Sayers. My all time favorite Peter Wimsey story. Harriet Vane is delightfully absent, and it’s a funny take-off on Ms.Sayers’ experiences in the world of advertising.

The Godwulf Manuscript, Robert B. Parker. Introduces us to the PI that redefined the genre.

Back Door Man, by Rob Kantner. The introduction of one of the best, and most under-appreciated, protagonists in crime fiction: Ben Perkins.

All the Flowers are Dying, Lawrence Block. I think it’s his master work.

The Kenzie and Gennaro series, Dennis Lehane. Don’t be cranky that I didn’t pick just one. I think the greatness here lies in the fact that Lehane knew when to stop.

The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett: For obvious reasons.

David J. Montgomery

I only read one of the Kenzie/Gennaro books, Sacred, and found it to be strictly ordinary. But people have told me that it's not representative of the rest of the series. Is that true?

David J. Montgomery

I disagree completely that Connelly should have stopped the Bosch series with Lost Light. Although I was a little disappointed in The Narrows, The Closers was excellent and Echo Park is even better.

I think Connelly is the modern master of detective fiction, better than anyone else writing today. He's even surpassed Block, and that's saying a lot.


Hi David,

Regarding Kenzie and Gennaro, I didn't adore every single book. But I thought the quality ranged from really, really good to outstanding. In my opinion what really makes the series shine is the arc from Book 1 to Book 5. If you read them in order, you get a complete picture of Patrick and Angie, and the last bit of the last book completes the series perfectly. As I said, Lehane knew when to stop, and that's all too rare.

Most people (I think) point to A Drink Before the War as the best in the series. Give that one a shot and see what you think.....


That's a bold statement, saying Connelly is better than Block. Scudder's story is done, and it seemed to stop organically. I'm curious if Bosch will ever slip into a parody of itself. I thought Lost Lost would have been a perfect ending, but The Closers was great. I have yet to read Echo Park. I'd like to get ARCs from Connelly to review on WWW.CHUD.COM

I thought The Lincoln Lawyer was brilliant. Connelly and Pelecanos are certainly the best writers writing about crime realistically.

You NEED to read Gone, Baby, Gone. It is far from ordinary. As others have said, the whole series is a character arc of Patrick and Angie.

David J. Montgomery

"That's a bold statement, saying Connelly is better than Block."

I know, it is, isn't it! One I haven't made before, either.

But the more I think about it, the more I like it.

CHUD looks to be a movie site, so you might not have much look getting ARCs for there. But if you write book reviews on any book-oriented sites, galleys often seem to be in the offing.


CHUD is a media site, covering all kinds of things. I was brought on to cover books back in August and have gotten in contact with several authors who are sending me ARCs.

I love Connelly, and I think he brings biting truth to crime and the people who do them and solve them, but I'm a die-hard Block man.

Links to my stuff:

http://chud.com/reviews/7297 ALL THE FLOWERS ARE DYING review

http://chud.com/reviews/7515 IN THE COMPANY OF OGRES Review


http://chud.com/reviews/7351 WICKED BREAK review(Oh, I did not like this book one bit)

http://chud.com/reviews/7338 THE FOURTH BEAR review

http://www.chud.com/index.php?type=interviews&id=7462 Barry Eisler interview

http://chud.com/interviews/7315 A. Lee Martinez interview

David J. Montgomery

It's always good to see more reviews! I recommend you contact the publishers, though, rather than the authors to inquire about ARCs.

Michael Connelly, for example, is unlikely to send you a book directly. Well, okay, he sent me one... but I'm special. :)

David J. Montgomery

p.s. I promise that will be the last shameless name dropping of the week.


Bill Peschel

I think I can contribute to the Sayers discussion, having gone through the books for the (still unfinished) annotation.

"Murder Must Advertise" is a nice choice. The mystery is solid and Lord Peter's experiences at Plimm's as an ad writer is based on Sayers' work. Her remarks on the effects of advertising on the public are pretty advanced for a book written in the 1930s.

I favor "Have His Carcase," however. Another solid mystery, it also advances the Wimsey/Vane relationship and the doomed relationship between the Russian emigre dancer and the older woman is affecting. An excellent example of classic "Golden Age" writing.

"Gaudy Night" is weaker in the mystery department. It's Sayers' love letter to Oxford and the culmination of the Wimsey/Vane relationship (in which he proposes and she accepts). It's a more literary novel in that the relationships among the women, and better Harriett and Peter, take precedence over the mystery. Very well done, but a disappointment to some detective fans.

Coming up with 10's gonna be hard. Wonder if we need to have 10 and 10; pre- and post-World War II.

Lana Lang

I love the ending of LOST LIGHT -- it would have been a really good ending for the series.

THE NARROWS was heavily disappointing, the only Connelly novel I disliked. Read more like a Patterson novel than a Connelly book. THE CLOSERS was okay, but lacked the intensity of the earlier Bosch novels.

I'm glad to hear that ECHO PARK is better, I'll buy it the day it's released.


Great debate here. Don't you just love comments, David? ;-) Makes blogging special.

I think the thing to bear in mind about Sayers is that she's a genre-creator. A bit like Chesterton, if you read some of his Father Browns now, they seem dated, but nobody had thought of the angle at the time. Similarly Sayers, I've read all of hers as a child -- although I might not think them so good now (I am sure I wouldn't), they broke a mould. The same could be said for Wilkie Collins (The Moonstone, Woman in White) and even the odd Dickens (Barnaby Rudge).
What are you giving marks for here, having the idea in the first place or being a great modern exponent?

If classics, I suggest you do include Sayers, Christie, Collins along with the rest.

If "modernish" then Connelly definitely, Rankin I would say. Then you could perm lots from the suggestions offered, plus people (as mentioned on Petrona in my link to your post): Val McDermid, Karin Slaughter, Liza Marklund, Mary Higgins Clark, Arnaldur Indridason, Elizabeth George, Harlan Coben et al.

You are a brave man, David. I hope you'll post a considered "Best" list from the suggestions you've received.

BTW I like Lehane, he does not stand out from the others but he's up there with them, I think.

David J. Montgomery

To answer Maxine's question, I don't rate very highly a book that was groundbreaking at its time, but doesn't make for a great read today.

That's one of the reasons I was a little wary of including Raymond Chandler, since I find him a little more difficult to read these days. But I think his work is still iconic enough (and enjoyable enough) to rate inclusion.

David J. Montgomery

I should let it be known that I haven't read any of the Scandanavian writers and probably never will.

When I became a critic a while back, I decided I had to specialize to some extent in order to have even a fighting chance of covering a slice of the genre. So I decided to focus on American writers. Invariably, I prefer their works anyway. I do occasionally pick up something British or European, but I'm seldom enchanted. (Granted, it's hardly a sufficient sample size to draw much of a conclusion, which is why I don't do so.)

Some might argue that my list will suffer as a result... but it is, after all, my list. :)


I'd second (or third) THE CONCRETE BLONDE. I simply loved that book. L.A. REQUIEM is another must to include. Regarding SACRED, by Lehane...that is the weakest book in the series. Please, please read GONE, BABY, GONE or A DRINK BEFORE THE WAR. They both kick arse!

I also agree that EARLY AUTUMN would be my pick from Parker's books. And THE CHILL by Ross MacDonald is a must. And shame on you for not including THE LAST GOOD KISS. :)

As far as woman writers go, something by Marcia Muller might qualify, but titles are not coming to my brain at the moment (so maybe not).


"Greatest Detective Novels" -- and I'll assume this includes police procedurals because a few of you included Harry Bosch books on your lists.

1) "Lovely Mover," by Bill James, though several of his novels from the middle of James' Harpur & Iles series are about as good. James is the best prose stylist who has ever written crime fiction in English. The books are violent, dark -- and often very funny.

2) "Death of a Red Heroine," by Qiu Xiaolong. A clear-eyed view of 1990s Shanghai that meets every traditional requirement for a full-blooded crime novel. The setting is evocative, the protagonist is unusual (though not the strongest feature of the book), the supporting characters are compelling, and the story has a surprise ending that could only have happened in China. And, as a bonus, Qiu wrote the book in English, which qualifies it for the list that began this debate.

3) "Cosi Fan Tutti," by Michael Dibdin, is an exception to my general distaste for novels set in "foreign" countries by writers not from those countries. Such books often degenerate into travelogues. This is formally daring, and talk about surprise endings!
It was interesting to see "Death in a Bowl" on somebody's list. I've never read a book that did a better job of creating an atmosphere of paranoia. But Whitfield's prose style has dated poorly -- far too many "he stated"s instead of "he said"s. And "he swore grimly" exhausted Whitfield power of expressing emotion. For something from a similar time and place that holds up far better today, try Jonathan Latimer's Bill Crane novels, especially "The Lady in the Morgue."


"My thoughts on Ian Rankin:

He desperately wants to be Michael Connelly, but his view on crime is really simplistic and black and white. Don't bother.

Posted by: Cameron | September 15, 2006 at 02:00 PM"

It's fun to puncture reputations, isn't it? I've read three of Rankin's tomes, and I wish he'd stop writing tomes and start writing novels. He's like Dickens without the fun or Melville without the whale. The weight of detail on, say, North Sea oil rigs and their effect on the local economy, tends to be suffocatingly Victorian. He's written some terrific short stories, though.


While not technically a "detective" novel, this book was so memorable (in a creepy disturbing way) that I think it deserves a place on a list of top 10 crime novels:

Ruth Rendell
A Dark Adapted


PD James
Devices and Desires

It was published 16 years ago and I can still remember the opening:

"The Whistler's fourth victim...she died because she missed the 9:40 bus"


Wow, Sharon, you're opening up the discussion in hazardous new directions when you refer to "crime novels" rather than "detective novels." If crime rather than detection is the criterion, I'd throw in some of Donald Westlake's early Parker novels.

David J. Montgomery

This particular list is definitely just for detective novels. But I think there might be more lists in the future.


Can't believe you left Sarah Paretsky off this list - but which to choose? Burn Marks is a personal favourite, but I'm sure other people would pick a different one.

David J. Montgomery

This probably counts as heresy, since I write for a Chicago paper, but I've never cared for Paretsky's work.

That being said, I only tried a couple of them, so it was hardly a definitive survey.


You have some connection with Chicago, you say? Any thoughts on Stuart M. Kaminsky's Abe Lieberman books? Lieberman's a pretty interesting character, not least because he's a male crime-novel protagonist who is happily married.


Detectives Beyond Borders: A Forum for International Crime Fiction
"Because Murder is More Fun Away From Home"

David J. Montgomery

"You have some connection with Chicago, you say?"

Yep, I'm the mystery/thriller reviewer for the Sun-Times. I've read Kaminsky a few times over the years. He's good, and I recall enjoying his stuff, but not enough to endorse for this lsit.


I think Kaminsky writes a book each day before brushing his teeth in the morning and creates a new series every Sunday.

I've read a few of his Lew Fonesca novels, too. The first one I read tended toward melodrama occasionally (perhaps no surprise for an author who has spend so much time writing about, teaching and watching American movies). But what a premise, what a situation he's chosen for his protagonist -- drives till his car dies, winds up living in a cheap office overlooking a Dairy Queen in Sarasota, Fla. Wonderful!


Anyone ever read Loren D. Estleman and the "Amos Walker" series. They are wonderful


You need to try Harlan Coben - then I predict you will revise your list.


Great subject! But wait, haven't you guys ever read James Elroy? I know they are more police procedurals, but since the characters are detectives (albeit police detectives) any 10 Greatest Crime books would have to include "The Big Nowhere" and "L.A. Confidential". I'm also surprised nobody mentioned old-shool genius David Goodis, or new-school master Ken Bruen. What do you guys think?


Agatha Christie?

Anne Roche

Looking for great female writers? Tess Gerritson with detective Jane Rizzoli, very good series but the best 2 are The Surgeon and The Apprentice, which must be read in that order. Set in Boston, lots of blood. Great.
Then try Karin Slaughter, again many books but the best so far is TRIPTYCH.
Finally, an absolute MUST is Mark Billingham who has the same detective in many books and I find it impossible to select a "best" because they are all excellent. However, get started at the beginning with SLEEPYHEAD, then SCAREDY CAT, both books you cannot put down.


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Crais Connelly, Pelecanos, all wonderful. But no mention ( I can see) of Elroy Leonard. I would certainly have him on this venerable list.
Harry Dunn

James White

L.A. Requiem - Robert Crais
The Monkey's Raincoat Robert Crais
A Drink Before the War - Dennis Lehane
Mystic River - Dennis Lehane
A Darkness More Than Night - Michael Connelly
The Concrete Blonde - Michael Connelly
Devil in a Blue Dress - Walter Mosely
Down by the River Where the Dead Men Go George Pelecanos
California Girl T. Jefferson Parker
When the Sacred Gin-mill Closes - Lawrence Block
The Devil Knows You're Dead - Lawrence Block
Farewell My Lovely - Raymond Chandler
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
The Underground Man by Ross Macdonald

James White

More than 10 of course but just some of my favorites...I was surprised how many were on other people's list.


More than 10 of course but just some of my favorites...I was surprised how many were on other people's list.

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I do agree with the books and authors already listed. How about something by Ruth Rendell?

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I read The Long Goodbye novel, Their suspense amazing..

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Ross Macdonald or Mickey Spillane both are great writers.


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"L.A. Requiem" its the favorite for me of those 10 titles, then "Devil in a Blue Dress", love the plot and the theme of the novel.

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David J. Montgomery is a writer and critic specializing in books and publishing. He is an emeritus columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and The Daily Beast, and has also written for USA Today, the Washington Post, and other fine publications. A former professor of History, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two daughters.

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